MIFTAH participates in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 100th Anniversary Conference: 'Palestinian women under occupation: threats and security challenges'
August 11, 2015

Ramallah -- In The Hague, the Netherlands, WILPF recently held a special session celebrating 100 years since its formation, with the participation of foreign and Arab delegations, including Palestine.

MIFTAH Development Director Hanan Kaoud represented the organization at the conference, along with representatives from the Gaza-based Women's Affairs Center, the Women's Affairs Team and the Palestinian Working Women's Association for Development.

Over 1200 women activists and human rights defenders attended the conference from around the world. In a special session in which women activists and civil society representatives from Iran, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Yemen and Palestine attended entitled, "Women, agents of change", Kaoud gave a presentation named, "Palestinian Women under occupation: threats and security challenges." During her presentation, she addressed the impact of the occupation on women in Palestine, particularly the recent war on the Gaza Strip and on areas near the separation wall. Kaoud also talked about the struggle to preserve Palestinian identity, the affects of checkpoints, the siege on Gaza and other systematic Israeli occupation measures against the Palestinians in general and against women in particular.

The Palestinian women's movement

Kaoud then gave a snapshot of the women's movement in Palestine since 1921, through 1948 and 1967 up until the start of the 70s, focusing on the challenges that came along with the forced expulsion of the Palestinians, and how women fought side by side with men. This took her up to the start of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s (during the first Intifada), then through the Oslo period and beyond, pointing out the efforts of the women's movement during these times regarding the building of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. Here she shed light on the several official and unofficial women's bodies in Palestine including women's unions, groups, ministries and coalitions. The National Coalition for UN Resolution 1325 in Palestine is one of the most significant of these coalitions in supporting women's agenda for peace and security through its reference to UN resolutions and international tools such as: Resolution 1325, the CEDAW Convention , Recommendation 30, the Beijing Treaty and the Arms Trade Treaty. Furthermore, the Coalition supports the efforts of the PA in holding the international community responsible for Israel's accountability and for stripping its military occupation of immunity.

The separation wall

Kaoud then proceeded to display the clear impact of Israel's separation wall on the lives of Palestinians in general, and on women in particular. She explained how it affected the level of women's participation in political and social life, offering case studies documented by women's organizations, which showed how the separation wall impeded women's access to educational and health services and hindered their ability to reach public venues.

Land confiscation and home demolitions

In her presentation, Kaoud also broached the subject of land confiscation and the demolition of homes. She demonstrated how Israel has used this policy for years in the besieged Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, through demolishing homes under the pretext of lack of proper licensing. This is especially true in east Jerusalem, all while Israel continues to step up its construction of illegal settlements with the aim of Judaizing the city.

Ethnic cleansing and the fight for identity

Kaoud explained Israel's policy of fragmenting the Palestinian territory and displacing its inhabitants, which it has employed for almost 100 years, ever since the Balfour Declaration. She said Israel was carrying out ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, limiting their movement by imposing more and more restrictions. This, she maintained, has led to a breakdown in social and familial relationships and has created a new reality where Palestinians find themselves fighting for their identity. This is especially true in Jerusalem and in Area C of the West Bank where settlement expansion is more concentrated.

Arms Trade Treaty

Kaoud then turned to the multilateral Arms Trade Treaty of 2012, calling for stringent restrictions on the sale of arms to Israel, which it has used in its wars against the Palestinians, especially on the Gaza Strip.

Kaoud wrapped up her presentation by calling for solidarity with the Palestinians towards ending the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine. She said it was imperative to pressure member states to recognize Palestine as an independent state and to guarantee international protection for the Palestinian people, women in particular. She also maintained the importance of holding Israel legally accountable for its violations of international resolutions and international humanitarian law. Finally she said the separation wall needed to be dismantled given the suffering it causes Palestinians and because of the fact that it contravenes the International Court of Justice decision, which called on Israel to remove it.

Ms. Kaoud also participated in a smaller regional advisory meeting with international expert and head of the committee mandated by the UN Secretary General to conduct an global study into the implementation of Resolution 1325, Radhika Coomaraswamy. The study's results are to be included in the annual report of the Security Council's Secretary General this year.

The advisory meeting was attended by civil society institutions in the Middle East region to discuss the topic of ”women in peace and security". In addition to Palestine, represented by MIFTAH, Samia Bamiya attended on behalf of the Women's Affairs Team. There were also over 30 participants from Morocco, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Iran in addition to representatives from international and rights organizations and UN bodies.

Palestine's representatives recommended the need to include women under occupation on the agenda of the Security Council and to enforce international tools to end the conflict and provide protection, which they said was the main role of Security Council member states. They also called for enforcing mechanisms of accountability against the Israeli occupation for its violation of international humanitarian law and UN resolutions and charters.